Hardwoods are a handsome and hardy flooring choice that, once installed, can instantly create a cozy, rustic, and inviting vibe to a room. Although hardwoods add visual warmth to a space, they have a reputation for being cold to the touch. This is why the idea of heating a hardwood floor is so appealing. But when it comes to heating floor surfaces, is it safe, or even possible, to heat your hardwood flooring?When it comes to heating floor surfaces, is it safe, or even possible, to heat your hardwood flooring? Click To Tweet
If you’re asking this question, you’re not alone. This is one of the top questions we are asked, and it’s easy to understand why. How can you use a radiant heating system to warm hardwood floors without causing a fire? In this post, we’ll discuss whether or not it’s possible, along with other considerations.
Is it Safe to Use a Radiant Heating System With Wood Floors?
Warming your home with an in-floor radiant heating system is not only energy efficient, but also one of the safest heating choices available.
To underscore the safety of a radiant floor heating system, let’s take a look at how it works.
How Radiant Floor Heating Systems Work
Radiant floor heating is a system that transfers heat through your floors. In this system, electric cables or PEX tubes are installed on top of the subfloor and underneath your hardwood finish floor layer. The heat radiates from the floor beneath to create an ambient warmth in the room.
There are two types of radiant floor heating systems that you can choose to install in your home: Electric and water (also called hydronic). Both work similarly, however for hardwood finish floors, it’s better to go with the electric option to eliminate the possibility of a moisture complication in the future. Also, if you plan to DIY your installation, you’ll need to elect for the electric option, because the hydronic heating system requires professional installation.
You may think that a radiant floor heating system only works with certain finish floor surfaces, such as stone or carpet. However, radiant floor heating systems work well with all types of wood finish floors, including laminates, engineered woods, and softwoods. And, if you love the look, function, and authenticity of hardwood, you can still enjoy a radiant floor heating system in your home.
An electric radiant floor heating system is safe because there are no moving parts, no open flames, and no exposed elements to catch fire.
Reasons to Choose a Radiant Floor Heating System
Why should you pair a radiant heating system with your hardwood floors? Here are the top reasons to install this system:
Radiant heat is energy efficient – A radiant floor heating system is more energy efficient than the forced air heating alternative. In a traditional forced air heating system, the warmed air is unevenly distributed, with most of it remaining near the ceiling. A radiant floor setup ensures that the heat is evenly dispersed throughout the room.
Radiant heat is cost-effective – Once installed, your radiant floor heating system will immediately start saving you money in heating costs. Radiant heat is much more efficient than other forms of heat. You can choose to run the system during off-peak times to save money, and then enjoy the lasting residual heat for hours.
You can control radiant heat individually by zone – Radiant floor heating systems are designed for each individual room. This means that you can control the heating in each room separately. Heating individual zones allow you to better control energy usage.
Radiant heat is allergy-friendly – A radiant floor heating system ensures superior air quality, which is a welcome relief for those who suffer from airborne allergies. While forced air heating systems push allergens through the air, a radiant floor does not circulate airborne allergens. You can breathe deeply in a radiantly warmed room without fear of what may be in the air.
Radiant heat is durable and long lasting – A radiant heating system can last for decades, making it a solid investment in your home. In fact, this system can last longer than furnaces, pellet stoves, heat pumps,
Radiant heat is quieter than a forced air system – One of the biggest cons with a forced air system is that you can hear it turn on and off throughout the day and night. Radiant heating systems are silent, which means that they never disrupt you.
Considerations Before Installing a Radiant Heating System Under Your Wood Floors
Before you install a radiant heating system under your hardwood floor, here are a few things to consider:
Board thickness –
The biggest consideration when pairing a hardwood floor with a radiant floor heating system is board thickness. In order to successfully transfer radiant heat, you should opt for thinner hardwood boards. The effectiveness of your radiant floor heating system depends on the thickness of the wood. The best thicknesses are ⅜”, ⅝”, and ¾”. This thickness may also include the underlay. Be sure to factor in the thickness maximum issued by the manufacturer of the radiant heating system.
Type of installation –
There are several options for securing a hardwood floor, from nailing to gluing down. Most manufacturers recommend using a floating floor with a radiant heating system. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation of your radiant heating system.
Wood species –
Another important element to think about is the type of wood to use with your radiant heating system. Some wood species work better than others. Instead of winging it, choose a species that’s certified to work with radiant heat. This list includes ash, beech, cherry, maple, and certain oaks. The manufacturer of your preferred radiant heating system may also spell out the types of wood to use.
Most radiant heating systems can reach a toasty 85°, however, the National Wood Floor Association recommends that you keep your wood floors between 60° to 80°. We should also note that, while it takes longer to warm up a room with this type of system, a radiantly warmed room will retain heat for longer. Radiant heat systems retain heat better than forced air, fireplaces, and electric heaters.
Stability when heated –
You should also consider the stability of the wood boards when radiantly heated. The dimensions of the wood floor play a huge role in the floor’s stability. Quarter sawn wood flooring holds up better when exposed to heat and moisture. Plain sawn is less stable.
Humidity is a big factor when installing a radiant floor system under hardwood floors. If the wood you choose has a higher moisture content, it may shrink and create gaps when subjected to the dry heat of a radiant system.
On the other hand, if your house is located in a humid environment, the finish floor may swell and create puckering. Also, consider the expected moisture level of the room. While you can use radiant floors in any room, including bathrooms and kitchens, remember that moisture can affect the stability of the hardwood floors.
Be sure to choose a hardwood floor that has the ideal moisture content for your home.
Although radiant floor heating systems are most commonly paired with tile and stone floors, they work well with hardwood finish floors, too. With a radiant heating system beneath, you can enjoy a warm and toasty temperature all year around.